For over a decade family and friends joined my daughter and I for the annual Holidaze festival/Deer Hunters Widows Weekend.
Our number grew each year as more moms and daughters joined in our traditional “holiday opener.” Our tour began with the festivities on Water Street, then on to downtown Eau Claire.
Each store decorated, offering treats and sales to please the holiday customers. The streets came alive with the carols of the Memorial High School choir dressed in holiday costume, warming pots, local entertainers on the street corners spreading cheer and strangers greeting one other, making it impossible to escape the aura of holiday cheer. It was a magical scene filled with a spirit of the holiday season and the beauty and hospitality of our city.
The last few years the magic and splendor have dwindled. The fanfare on the streets vanished, fewer shops partook in the event, until this past year (2017) it was totally nonexistent. I was embarrassed to have family and friends travel from out of town to an event that didn’t even have Christmas music playing from the speakers on the light posts. Only three stores on Water Street offered any type of holiday atmosphere — not at all living up to the ads on local television stations and in the newspaper.
To make matters even less festive, the Holidaze vendor and trade show at The Lismore was canceled just a few short weeks before the event. How could that be? I am shocked that no one else on the Holidaze committee could step up to cover for Tami (Schraufnagel) and her husband and allow the event to continue; it had been advertised and an anticipated event for shoppers. What happened to “the show must go on” attitude? The whole event has fallen apart. Public interest has not even been considered.
This past year was a disappointment to all of us. Next winter our growing festive group of holiday shoppers will go elsewhere to enjoy holiday festivities and spend our time and cash.
Really, Eau Claire, is this the best we can do? How terribly sad that a city many of us thought was growing, alive and part of the big, beautiful world of creativity could fail so miserably at such a potentially financially lucrative opportunity. Isn’t anyone out there willing to work together as a joyful community to rekindle this once awesome event?
I have been told by chamber members that there are too many festivities around the holiday season. Trust me, there is no such thing as “too much fun.” There can never be too many holiday celebrating events. Come on Eau Claire, we can do this — we can rekindle our holiday spirit traditions. We are a great city with the potential to be a holiday tourist magnet. The possibilities are endless.
Petroff resides in Altoona.